Popsicles And Indian Cents Stick With You
Posted on 5/26/2016
Unlike in the olden days, like when I was a kid, late spring is becoming one of the busier times of the year in the numismatic world. As the merry month of May winds down, major record setting auctions such as Pogue IV are in the books for dealers and collectors to marvel at and apportion their place in history. Now as June lurks around the corner she will be ushering in the Goldberg’s always diverse and highly anticipated Pre-Long Beach auctions slated for June 5-8 in Los Angeles. As that venue concludes, the migration will find the coin brethren docked for the Long Beach Exposition running June 9-11. Whether traipsing the aisles on the bourse at the convention center or attending the host Signature Heritage Auctions June 8-12, dealer and collector will be poised for action.
I, for one, love all the activity. With so much tension, mayhem and political madness in the world it is great to have an escape.
Coins and the numismatic world is a great haven for the weary occupants of our planet to take refuge. As I look at the calendar, it was precisely 50 years ago that I first became acquainted with this great hobby. I’m sure this is not a revelation but where did the time go? I remember school was about to be let out for the summer of 1966 and thoughts of summer vacation and attending my first Major League Baseball game in about a month were dominant thoughts.
Yet until the date at Fenway Park with the Red Sox the summer would be filled with carefree adventures and riding my bike as long as I could. On rainy days I had my trusty Red Book to keep me occupied. Ah yes, that volume was given to me for Christmas the year before and it was always at my bedside. I enjoyed the history, designs and mintage figures and even then was trying to determine if there was a correlation between mintage and how the prices were established. I had developed a fondness for certain series and had memorized the prices and mintage data for many of the key coins. I had saved around 20 or so older Lincoln cents mostly from the 1920s and had a few 1943 steels, but my first major attraction in the copper realm was the Indian cent.
I really liked the design, especially on coins which were worn down as they had more of an “Indian” look. The design was different. It wasn’t something that you’d see every day in your pocket change. I recollect my first encounter with the noble coin.
My mom had a small collection of coins that were given to her by her dad. She kept granddad’s few silver dollars, a large copper coin (1853 Large cent), a slightly bent three cent silver, several Indian cents along with some English and Canadian coins all tucked in a small cotton lined cardboard box which she kept on the top drawer of her cedar chest. Mom would occasionally pull out that little talcum powder smelling box and take a look at the coins with me and I really enjoyed that especially the Indian cents. One was in Fine condition as I could make out “Liberty” on the headdress and the other ones lesser grade. I recall all were very smooth, slightly glossy and medium brown.
Now as if getting out of school for the summer wasn’t a joyous occasion enough, as the school bell rang that Friday for the last time that school year another gift was about to be dropped into my hands.
When dad got home from work, he asked me go with him to the A&P grocery store to pick a few things for dinner. After we cashed out and we’re back to the car Dad said, “Jimmy go back in and get some popsicles for after dinner.” Dad then pulled a dollar out from his wallet and gave it to me. I raced into the store and picked up a Hood variety pack of frozen treats—popsicles, orange dreamsicles and the like. I checked out, got into the car and was about to give dad the change when he said you keep it. I put the change dutifully in my pocket.
After dinner, my brothers and I devoured the popsicles and dreamsicles. As they tend to be a bit gooey, as any kid would do I wiped my hands on my shirt and then stuck my hands into my pant pockets for a more thorough cleaning. Oh yeah, I had forgotten I had some change in there! I then pulled out the coins. My hands still a tad sticky and colorful from the popsicle's residue so each coin emerged with a slight orange and lime glow. There was a dime and three cents. I gulped and my eyes did a happy dance as two of the cents were Indian Heads!!! One an 1896 the other 1907! I remember I squealed and told mom and dad to come see what I got. I couldn’t believe it two Indian cents! The 1896 was Very Fine! After I settled down I asked Dad if we could go back to that same grocery store tomorrow and see if there might be some more!
Who knows, I thought maybe it was like the tooth fairy and they would deliver some more Indian Head cents and they would be in the till waiting for me tomorrow. Dad agreed and did take me back to the A&P early Saturday morning, gave me a quarter and said go get some change! I raced in and spotted the same cashier and asked her if she would make change for the quarter. “All pennies please,” I announced.
I took the handfuls of coppers back to the car and we looked through them. Timing, kismet or whatever, luck was with me—four more Indians!! Dad said, “You are a lucky little son of a gun; that is pretty amazing.” With that I announced my theory to pop. I suggested to dad that perhaps the reason there are so many Indian Head cents is because it seemed to me that much older people shopped at that A&P.
Dad countered, “So you think that just because they are old, you think that they still carried the first money they ever owned with them to the store”?
Put like that, no. I wanted to say yes but I knew he was right. I still liked my theory, instead I just stayed silent as I gazed at my new little tribe!
I then came to my senses and asked if we could check out the Dan’s Star Market since it was on our way, but he said no we are going home.
Now some 50 years later I harken back to that time and how coins from my year of birth were of absolutely no interest to me as they were just too new! I wanted old coins! Well now they are old! Presently I find myself happily acquiring both US and world coins from the year 1957 or in some cases back to those dated 1857 for variety! US Mint State and Proof coins... I have assembled all NGC PF 68s with my 1957 Franklin Half displaying a stunning black and white deep cameo obverse. In fact visually it is my favorite Franklin that I own! Mint set coins feature multiples of all the regular issues as well. I love the US Mint set toned coins and have several 1957 and '57-D Lincolns graded MS 66 BN. Several are wearing the orange and lime toning which is so reminiscent of the Popsicle colored Indian Head cents I pulled from my pocket five decades ago!
It’s never too late to change direction in your collecting habits or to make room for a new series or collecting endeavor. For the youngsters, there is a whole world to choose from. Find something that you like, topical theme or commemorative. Get started today; you won’t regret it. And for the older collectors out there why not turn back the time machine and search out some wonderfully preserved coins from your youth!
Until next time, happy collecting!
Jim Bisognani is an NGC Price Guide Analyst having previously served for many years as an analyst and writer for another major price guide. He has written extensively on US coin market trends and values.
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